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Telling Stories at Hastings Museum

Telling Stories at Hastings Museum

There are all sorts of stories we tell ourselves, to children, to friends, to parents, to strangers; some true, some embroidered, some simply with facts conveniently omitted or an embellishment of the truth. Long, short, tall, true, false, shaggy dog tales. So hearing that there was an exhibition of Telling Stories at the Hastings Museum  HOT reporter Lauris Morgan-Griffiths’ went to find out what was going on.

First, I was slightly puzzled as to where the exhibition started and the Museum exhibits stopped. A Museum is nothing if not a depository for history and stories so to site the exhibition at Hasting Museum is very apt. But it does temporarily silence the dinosaurs, north American Indians and  Hastings residents’ stories. I  can sense Toy Story type mutiny in the after hours.

Artwork by Cathryn Kemp for Telling Stories at Hastings MuseumCurated by Cathryn Kemp, Telling Stories is an interesting mixed media show of photography, film and installations. The show is fragile and tender. The stories are disparate, but mine common themes: time, history, memory and reliquaries. Time and memory being an important element of seeing and appreciating retrospectively the lives we  inherit and weave;  looking back to look forward.  Darkness resides side by side with lightness, emotional undercurrents bubble below.

Their concerns may be personal but they resonate and have a far-reaching effect as the artist has left space for the viewer to take the work on with their personal experience and memories.

I found myself at 4 o’clock the next morning waking and remembering my childhood home after seeing Martin Everett’s photographs of his family home overlaid with a rotation of photographs of him as a child. His installation was called Lypophrenia which Martin explains means “a feeling of sadness that you can’t quite grasp.”  And  his work transmits the idea of a ghostly room silenced now of  laughter, squabbles, happiness, tears and  mischief.

Old photographs are featured in Xaverine Bates work. She has knitted shredded photographs into a scarf-like garment – wrapping all those memories around her. I asked her if she had shredded all her photographs – like Michael Landy destroying all his worldly belongings back in 2001. And no, she stepped back from doing that. “I realised how valuable some of those family photos are” – and they are to memories and identity.

Cathryn Kemp, however, deliberately destroyed a garment. Having been seriously ill for some time, she symbolically buried the past in the form of a Victorian night dress. When she exhumed it several weeks later, she found the fibres rent asunder, the garment a bundle of rags. A very poignant symbol of leaving the past behind and stepping into the future.

The artists’ stories wander over a large arc of interests. They  are ostensibly calm projects with an underbelly of darkness. Lucinda Wells film of the sea seems calm and meditative but the more you look the waves feel like boiling emotions, twisting and turning, dissipating its energy to be taken back into the main body of the sea, ever changing. It expresses the real force of nature and its impact on our emotions with the action of weather, moon and wind. Elemental and powerful.

Telling Stories, Grace Lau exhibit

The living models in front of their Grace Lau coffin portraits

And death. Ever present, death in life, life in death. Grace Lau faced that head on. The Victorians photographed corpses in their coffin as if still living. Grace subverted that by asking living people to lie in a coffin wearing their chosen going away clothes and carrying an object to take with them on their journey. A lady holds a bottle of wine to sustain her, a man pragmatically takes his carpentry tools, prepared for whatever lies ahead.

Franny Swann’s fragile pieces are underpinned by memory and memorial. Requiem for a Lost Language sets tiny wings hovering in wooden print trays that would have contained letters to make up a language. To me they look like ash seeds that twirl and fly and find their place to grow and flourish. It evokes Hastings’ migrants who have slid down to the South coast for various reasons of their own and landed here.

And there are other artists with their stories to discover. Telling Stories deserves time spent really looking at the various artists work and their narratives  – some overt others hinting at deeper themes. All arresting in their different ways.

It is inevitable the viewer will overlay their own stories, it doesn’t in any way devalue the artists’ intentions, the artists should be commended for the opportunity to remember one’s own stories. And I will definitely go back to explore and understand more.

Telling Stories at Hastings Museum from 22 September 2012–13 January 2013

Posted 13:19 Friday, Sep 28, 2012 In: Visual Arts

Also in: Visual Arts

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